Cover Reveal! Blue Lines by Toni Aleo!

I’m excited to help with the cover reveal for Toni Aleo’s Blue Lines.  This is book 4 in Toni’s Assassins series.   What do you think?  While I love the guy’s back, I don’t think I’m over the moon about his jeans.  Would I like it better without them? Ummmm…yeah.  What do you think?

 

About the book:

Opposites do more than just attract in Toni Aleo’s latest Nashville Assassins novel about a very bad boy and the good girl he can’t resist.

The instant Piper Allen sees Erik Titov, she wants him—wants his rock-hard body, sure, but the strength and mystery that lie behind that superstar hockey jock demeanor, too. So when he sidles up to her at a bar and slinks his arm around her waist, she’s lost. What follows is the wildest night of her life . . . followed by inevitable heartbreak the next morning. And then, a few weeks later, a very big surprise: two blue lines on a pregnancy test.
Only a check to the head could make Erik fall for a nice girl like Piper. But since their crazy-sexy night together, he’s been trying to forget about her alluring body by falling into bed with every woman in Nashville, and it’s not working. So when Piper shows up at his house with a baby-bomb to drop, it doesn’t take much for Erik to suggest the nuclear option: marriage. While it’s supposed to be all for show, the second they say “I do,” the ice between them starts to melt into sizzling steam.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Taking Shots, Trying to Score, and Empty Net.

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Lines-Assassins-Contemporary-ebook/dp/B00BH0VTUW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1366653309&sr=1-1&keywords=Blue+Lines%3A+The+Assassins+Series+Toni+Aleo

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blue-lines-toni-aleo/1114852590?ean=9780345547330&itm=1&usri=9780345547330

iBookstore: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blue-lines-toni-aleo/1114852590?ean=9780345547330&itm=1&usri=9780345547330

Random House and other retailers: http://www.randomhouse.com/book/227840/blue-lines-the-assassins-series-by-toni-aleo

Review: Riding on Air by Maggie Gilbert

 

Title:  Riding on Air

Author: Maggie Gilbert

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

For readers of Jenny Downham, John Greene and Maureen McCarthy, a poignant young adult romance about following your dreams and realising what really matters.

What can you do when your own hands are the enemy? Hold on tight, for as long as it takes.

Melissa has secrets. Sure it’s pretty obvious she has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, but no one knows how bad it is or how many pills she takes for the pain. She’s determined to make her horse Jinx into a champion and she dreams that her childhood friend William will one day see her, rather than her condition.

So when William asks her out and Jinx is shortlisted for selection in an elite training program, it seems Melissa’s dreams have come true. But when her secrets are exposed, all those dreams come crashing down around her. Can William ever forgive her? And can she learn about letting go in time to truly ride on air when it matters most?


Review:

One guess why I wanted to read Riding on Air.  Yup, it’s got a horse on the cover.  Riding plays a big, big part of the story, so if you find horses boring, you might have a problem feeling engaged in the plot.  That wasn’t a problem for me!  I immediately felt comfortable with Melissa, and I agonized with her as she stubbornly refuses to give up her one, true love – horseback riding.  Sounds kind of melodramatic, but Melissa’s fears and hopes rang so true for me.  I would be devastated if I had to give up my horses, so I could sympathize with her right away.

As I’m getting ready for the first horse show of the season (which starts on Wednesday), Melissa’s efforts to prepare her horse Jinx for an important dressage show were instantly relatable.  Melissa has one added challenge; she has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which makes her joints ache and her fingers burn with pain. I personally can’t imagine riding if my hands were that painful, because contrary to popular belief, you don’t just get on a horse and sit there.  You have to ride every stride.  You have to keep the horse between your hands and your seat, and your hands need to be light and responsive, ready to check the horse back with both your hands and your seat.  If your hands aren’t there for you, you won’t be there for your horse.  Melissa stubbornly refuses to ask for help with Jinx, because she wants to prove that she’s just as normal as anyone else, and because she’s fearful that her parents will forbid her from riding. 

As Melissa’s condition worsens, a bright spot does enter her life.  She’s had a crush on William, a friend of her brothers, forever, and when he asks her out, she is over the moon.  As their relationship begins to bloom, though, she is overcome with doubts. How can William like her, or find her attractive, when her hands are such an ugly mess.  She can’t see beyond her illness, and she believes that nobody else can, either. When she takes a bad fall from Jinx, William tries to make her understand how important she is to him by asking her to stop riding, at least until her fingers aren’t as painful.  In a panic, Melissa accuses him of trying to ruin her life, and of not understanding how important Jinx’s success is to her.  Ouch! As if she doesn’t have enough on her mind, now she’s heartbroken because her boyfriend doesn’t understand her.

I enjoyed Riding on Air a lot.  The horse scenes were authentic, and got me excited about going to a show myself.  Melissa’s struggles to overcome all of the challenges thrown her way were compelling, and kept me engaged in the story.  While I would have liked this book just because of the horsey stuff, what made it a fulfilling read is the personal growth Melissa undergoes.  She begins to re-examine her relationships, and realizes that maybe she’s not being fair to her friends and family.  While they want to help her, she thinks their concerns are stifling her.  It’s only after she’s able to let go of her fierce need for independence that she is finally able to ride on air. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

 

Title:  Smashed

Author:  Lisa Luedeke

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A field hockey star grapples with addiction in this riveting debut that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

     Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.

 


Review:

I am not going to lie.  Parts of Smashed left me angry and frustrated.  It’s a hard book to put down, because Katie’s life is such a train wreck.  While I found it engrossing, I am torn about it.  I wanted to like Katie more than I did, but there are many times throughout the narrative that she is unlikable, and hard to relate to. She is struggling with her father’s rejection of her family, and when Alec is nice to her, she ignores her reservations about him and starts falling for him.  With a distant, distracted mother who is never there for her, she craves what Alec is giving her; attention and kindness.  When he shows a darker side, she is frightened, but when he apologizes for his abusive behavior, she forgives him, and puts herself  at risk again.  Katie doesn’t trust adults, and frankly, who can blame her after taking a long, hard look at her parents, so she instead tries to deal with all of her problems by herself.  She doesn’t even confide in her closest friends that she is in over her head with Alec.   Instead, she decides to deal with him herself, but her way of dealing with him can only have one outcome, and it isn’t a pretty one. 

Alec and his friends are the kings of her school, and they have a reputation for being bullies and getting away with crap.  When their paths start crossing during the summer, Katie starts to think that she’s been wrong about him.  He’s attentive and kind, and he’s there to listen as she vents about her family.  Sure, a couple of things don’t add up, and he gets aggressive about a physical relationship, but Katie convinces herself that she’s sending him the wrong signals.  She just wants to be friends.  But the more she pushes him away, the harder he pushes back, until he has her scared and wary of him.  When a drunk driving accident almost kills them both, Katie has to live the consequences of a very bad decision.  In the months that follow, she puts her dream of playing field hockey in college, a scholarship, and even her life in danger. 

I was so upset with some of the choices that Katie made.  There is pressure on her and her teammates to not get caught partying during the season, or they will be kicked off the team.  Instead of drinking publically, Katie starts drinking at home.  Her mother is never there, so it’s not like anyone is going to know or care.  Her mother is more focused on her job and finding a boyfriend to be there for Katie and her younger brother.   Without positive role models, Katie is struggling to find her place and struggling to deal with the challenges she is facing.  I kept wondering if and when her mother would take a step back from her own life and take an interest in her children’s.  I also felt horribly sad that Katie felt so abandoned and alone.  She feels that she has no one, so she starts drinking to forget all of her problems.

I don’t feel that Alec’s personality was developed enough, and I was disappointed at Alec’s lack of depth. I never felt that I got to know him or understand him. He’s just a one-dimensional jerk whose only purpose in the story is to propel Katie down a path of self-destruction. 

If you enjoy contemporary fiction that deal with social issues, I think you will enjoy Smashed.  It is a compelling and hard to put down read, and even though I didn’t always like Katie, I always sympathized with her.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Cover Shot! Taking Shots by Toni Aleo

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

This is another YUM! cover!  And since we didn’t get much hockey this season, I may as well read about it.  Taking the Shots by Toni Aleo will be available in May.

In Toni Aleo’s exhilarating Loveswept debut, the first in a series featuring the hockey hunks of the Nashville Assassins, a reformed bad boy helps a charming, willful woman face off against the demons of her past.
No matter how hard she tries, Elleanor Fisher never thinks she’s good enough, from her job to her weight to her love life. After enduring years of abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, Elli has been drifting through life in a daze. Until, that is, she meets Shea Adler on a promotional shoot for the NHL’s Nashville Assassins. Before Elli knows what’s happening, the gorgeous Shea breaks the ice and shatters her world.
A brilliant athlete inside the rink, Shea Adler is tired of the life he’s living outside of it: the women, the money, the drinking. But everything changes when he meets Elli. After laying eyes on this feisty, witty, beautiful woman, he feels like he’s just taken the hardest hit of his life. No matter how skeptical she is, Shea knows they are meant to be together—if only he can convince Elli to put her insecurities aside before she misses out on a shot at love.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Trying to Score, Empty Net, and Along Came Trouble.

Review: Playing at Love by Ophelia London

 

 

Title: Playing at Love

Author:  Ophelia London

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Show choir teacher Tess Johansson loves three things: music, her job, and sharing that passion with her students. But when a school budget crisis forces funding to be pulled from either the sports or music programs, she finds herself going head to head with Jack, the gorgeous new football coach who broke her heart fifteen years ago.

Jack Marshall wants two things: to be closer to his young daughter and to make his mark as a football coach. Taking the new job, with the promise that he’d have time to build a solid team, gave him both. But now he must win the season with a group of boys who aren’t anywhere near ready or he’ll lose everything he’s worked so hard for. Being pitted against Tess, the summer love he never forgot, is like being fourth and long with only seconds on the clock.

On opposing sides of a fierce battle and with everything at stake, Tess and Jack find themselves torn between doing what it takes to win and doing what it takes to be together.


Review:

When I saw this new Bliss title, I jumped at the chance to read it.  It has my favorite trope – you guessed it – second chances at love.  I just can’t resist that one, so as I settled into my seat for the flight back from OKC, I started gobbling up this book.  It is a sweet romance, with rapid pacing and fun characters. 

Tess loves her job as the show choir teacher at Franklin High.  She loves mentoring her students and pushing them to be the best they can be.  When her job is threatened due to budget cuts, she is on the defensive.  The only way to save her show choir is to take first place at Regionals, and even then, she has to hope that the new football coach, Jack, meets with failure.  If Jack can’t win 4 out of 6 games with the beleaguered football team, his new position will be going down the toilet.  Their rivalry is fueled by Jack’s betrayal when they were teenagers.  As the entire town starts to choose sides, Jack and Tess must decide what’s most important – winning or  falling in love.

I liked Tess, and felt that I got to know her and what made her tick.  She’s appalled to face a ghost from her past, and infuriated when Jack’s football team threatens the survival of her show choir program.  She loves her job, and she needs a paycheck to help keep her parents’ home out of foreclosure.  When Jack comes waltzing back into her life after breaking her heart all those years ago, Tess doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.  She still hasn’t gotten over his betrayal.  She can’t trust men, and something always drives her away from a serious, steady relationship. 

Jack has always regretted what he did that summer, all those years ago.  Now he has a chance to make up for it, but Tess won’t give him the time of day.  He’s beyond dismayed to learn that his new dream job may go up in smoke, and he can’t believe that his team has to compete with the show choir for survival.  The added conflict to their relationship kept me engaged in the story.  Since one of the programs has to go, I kept wondering how either protagonist would accept defeat.  As the competition began to divide the school, and eventually, the community, both Jack and Tess began to see the damage that was being done as pranks between supporters began to get out of hand.  I enjoyed reading along as they tried to come up with a mutually agreeable solution to the mess they found themselves in.  As their October deadline approached, they each began to question what was really important in their lives.  As they worked through this dilemma, it seemed that their relationship would take one step forward and two back, but I never felt that the pacing suffered, regardless of all of the new road bumps they encountered.

Playing at Love keeps a flirty tone throughout. I didn’t feel that Tess and Jack’s past was explored enough, but the story kept me entertained through a mechanical delay, a late flight crew, and a layover at DFW.  My one nitpick – I felt that it lacked depth, and the ending was wrapped up too quickly, and too conveniently.  Still, there is a good time to be had by all, and I believe that Jack and Tess won’t squander their second chance at a happy ever after.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Shot! One Sweet Ride by Jaci Burton

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Jaci Burton has some of the yummiest romance covers ever! I love seeing each new addition to the Play-by-Play series.  I really need to make the time to start reading these books!  Are you reading them? Which cover is your favorite?  Do you like the cover for One Sweet Ride?

In stores June 2013.

    

Race car driver Gray Preston enjoys fast cars and an uncomplicated life, until political aide Evelyn Hill enters the picture and complicates the hell out of it with a request that he help out his estranged father’s political campaign. Racing and politics don’t mix, but Gray and Evelyn’s sexual attraction sizzles like asphalt in August.

A Look Inside Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball

 

 

Title: Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball

Publisher: Sports Illustrated

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Get everything you ever wanted to know about America’s pastime in FULL COUNT: TOP 10 LISTS OF EVERYTHING IN BASEBALL . Presented in the format of Top 10 lists, this book is a comprehensive yet fun look at the greatest aspects of the game. From the top World Series moments to the most colorful characters, SI Kids ranks a variety of topics from the baseball diamond. Readers are guaranteed to love the big, exciting action photos from the Sports Illustrated collection and the insider knowledge of SI Kids. Filled with trivia and information, this dynamic book will be the definitive kids book on baseball.
Top 10 Rankings include:

Hardest throwers
Slickest infielders
Powerful sluggers
Loveable losers
Fastest base stealers
Best ballparks


The Look Inside:

As with all of the Sports Illustrated Kids books, Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball is beautifully presented.  The book is huge, featuring eye-popping photographs, both in color and black and white,  of the best in baseball.   I love these Top 10 books, and  the material had me flipping eagerly through the pages.  While I was a huge baseball fan in my teens, I have flipped over to football and hockey, preferring a faster, harder hitting game.  There was still plenty to hold my attention here, including Top 10 Ugly Uniforms (and yes, they are hideous! Most of the fugly are from the 70s, which doesn’t surprise me, but gaak! I can’t believe anyone thought these uniforms looked COOL!), Top 10 Mascots, and Top 10 Nicknames.  There are lots of Tigers mentioned, too, though Ernie Harwell only ranked second on the Top 10 Announcers list.  What?!  He was baseball in Detroit, and listening to games will never be the same without him.

Now, for those baseball fans out there, don’t be alarmed – there are plenty of lists with compelling baseball moments.  If Top 10 Facial Hair doesn’t interest you, I’m such that Top 10 Future Hall of Famers, Top 10 Scandals, and Top 10 Legendary Home Runs will get your blood pumping.  It was fun Googling footage of some of the most memorable moments in baseball, but without this book, I never would have thought to do it!  Hank Aaron’s 715th home run?  it’s on YouTube.  Kirk Gibson’s game winning homer in 1988?  Read about it in the book, then go watch it for yourself. 

If you have a young baseball fan at home, Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball will keep them entertained with the action-packed shots and fun trivia.  With the holidays fast approaching, this will make a fun gift for the baseball fan in your life.

Grade:  Fun!

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Shot! Mac’s Angels: Midnight Fantasy by Sandra Chastain

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

This cover? Yum.  I missed this book the first time around, so I’m looking forward to reading the digital release in February 2013.

 
 
 

From celebrated author Sandra Chastain comes the sensual tale of a compassionate nurse who is determined to heal her patient . . . and mend his shattered heart.

After a series of football injuries leave him broken in both body and spirit, former star quarterback Joe Armstrong decides that his life is over. Wanting nothing more than to sit alone with a strong drink, Joe is less than pleased when he receives an unexpected visit from nurse Annabelle Calloway. Finding the golden-haired angel impossible to ignore, Joe reluctantly lets Annabelle into his home.
Although she’s seen her fair share of tough cases, Annabelle isn’t sure how to reach the troubled Joe. But having almost succumbed to depression herself, Annabelle feels an instant connection to her charge. A connection that becomes undeniable. Enveloped by passion and filled with longing, Annabelle will stop at nothing to give Joe a reason to live—and a reason to love.